NASA's proposed cancellation of the Constellation program has sparked both fierce supporters and opposition. Overall, I am optimistic about the possibilities with the increased funding and shifted strategy, and I hope NASA's actions match its rhetoric. However, what is lacking now is a specific, focused plan with actual timetables and goals. One of Obama's statements in his speech really worried me, though:
Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.
That statement illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of why we explore. We don't just go to plant a flag and say "been there, done that". We go to learn. As much as I support getting humans to Mars NOW, I don't think the Moon should be ignored. We can explore both, and in fact the Moon may prove a useful testbed for technologies and crews before we send them to Mars. Obama really missed an opportunity to boldly set a line in the sand for when we should reach Mars and how all of NASA's exploration efforts to the Moon, asteroids, and otherwise would fit in with that plan.
To learn more, you can read the entire speech transcript, watch it below, and review the OSTP and NASA fact sheets on the plan.
If Batman, 007, and Star Trek can successfully reboot, NASA can too.